TRANSIT took note of a very interesting commentary from Ahmad Suhaili Idrus, the Director of the Urban Public Transport NKRA and Greater Kuala Lumpur / Klang Valley NKEA in response to a letter from TRANSIT’s Advisor Rajiv Rishyakaran, regarding recent comments by Idris Jala that the Klang Valley would be choked by 2020 if the MRT was not built.
Ahmad Suhaili attempted to clarify the situation by saying that the NKEA / NKRA projects related to public transport included improvements to rail and bus services, improved integration, improved infrastructure and expanded services. You can read the full comment below, but first, consider clicking on these links for some background information:
- Letter: Idris Jala is way off the mark (Free Malaysia Today, 2 November 2011)
- Klang Valley will be choked up by 2020 if no MRT, says Idris (Bernama, 1 November 2011)
And now, the response from Ahmad Suhaili:
MRT is integrated with LRT, KTM, monorail and bus systems
November 3, 2011 By ETP Malaysia
We refer to the letter ‘Idris Jala is wrong: MRT is not the only solution for Klang Valley’, written by Rajiv Rishyakaran from TRANSIT
Presumably, the writer was referring to Dato’ Sri’s response to a question during the recent ETP Turns One event, in which he said:
“MRT is absolutely in my opinion totally and utterly needed for our city. If we don’t have an MRT I can tell you, by the year 2020 this city will be choked.
The exact point where Dato’ Sri Idris Jala makes reference to the MRT project can be found in this video here:
We wish to clarify Dato’ Sri Idris Jala did not say that MRT is the only thing that will prevent Klang Valley from choking up by 2020.
[TRANSIT: And we wish to clarify that the impression given to the public is MRT, MRT, MRT – not just in Idris Jala’s statements, but also in the amount of information made public about the various public transport projects.]
The MRT project is part of an integrated and sustainable transport system for Greater Kuala Lumpur / Klang Valley, whose population is expected to hit 10 million people by the year 2020. Without the additional public transport capacity provided by the MRT integrated with the LRT, KTM, monorail and bus systems, the city will be choked by traffic, making it less livable for its residents and being an impediment to attract investors.
[TRANSIT: And yet ETP must acknowledge that the city is already choked with traffic, and that this has resulted from a wholesale neglect of the public transport sector, from rail lines to integration to bus service.]
This fact has been communicated extensively, via several open days, engagements with the public and in the print, broadcast and digital media.
[TRANSIT: And the vast majority of the information shared, the engagements that occurred, the discussion that has taken place, has focused on the MRT. We know so much about the plans for MRT and very little about the plans for the other improvements.]
In fact, the Government is undertaking several initiatives under the National Key Result Area (NKRA) for Urban Public Transport to improve the quality of public transport. These efforts are being implemented by various agencies under the Ministry of Transport, RapidKL, SPAD, and as mentioned above, have already been communicated to the public on many occasions.
With reference to buses :-
- The improvement of bus journey times by implementing Bus Expressway Transit (BET) services, and commissioning studies on the possibility of implementing dedicated bus rights of way such as bus lanes and Bus Rapid Transit systems and adding an additional 850 new buses on the roads from 2010 – 2012 by Rapid KL, bringing the total number of buses to 1450 by 2012 – 200 new buses in 2010, 400 new buses in 2011, 250 new buses in 2012. [TRANSIT: More buses are nice, but what efforts are being made to improve the quality of bus service and the existing bus lanes?]
- Upgrading of 634 bus stops in 2010, 468 refurbished bus stop in 2011 across 7 PBTs with plans to build an additional 306 new bus stops in 2011 to ensure a bus stop is within 400m for 70% of the population by 2012. [TRANSIT: In 2006 RapidKL had the goal of putting 100% of the population of the Klang Valley within 400m of a bus stop. Why has the goal been reduced? Or was the original goal not achievable?]
- Reorganising the bus network in the Klang Valley in 2011 on completion of Urban Public Transport Masterplan by SPAD. [TRANSIT: And yet, we have heard almost nothing about the Urban Public Transport Masterplan – the draft of which was supposedly to be made public in April 2011 – by this time, even though it has been shared with the cabinet. Where is the opportunity for public consultation before the masterplan is finalized? And please, do not claim that the masterplan will be completed in 2011 when it is already being said that the plan will not be ready until later in 2012 – a 6 months (or more) delay.]
- Implementing integrated smart ticketing “Bit Up” and “Bit Down” which was launched on February 25, 2011 by RapidKL and sold on all RapidKL buses. [TRANSIT: As good as the “smart ticketing” has been, there have been large numbers of complaints about the electronic payment system, service delays, and the cost of purchasing the cards. Similar complaints are already appearing about the new Rapidcard.]
- Decongesting the city center by approximately 500 express buses with the establishment of the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) in Bandar Tasik Selatan removing the load off the Puduraya terminal. Further initiatives include a new ITT in Gombak by 2012 to cater to eastcoast and north bound express buses which will decongest the city center by a further 300 express buses. [TRANSIT: Finally, an initiative that has started and could be called successful…sort of. Yes, the Terminal is operating, after some very annoying delays. Yes, there are fewer Express buses in KL town, and yes, the additional space has allowed buses to be moved to Puduraya / Pudu Sentral, reduing the number of buses. But there are still complaints and issues related to express bus services, congestion in Bandar Tasik Selatan, and other issues.]
- Introducing performance standard monitoring for all public transport services. [TRANSIT: Does anyone know anything about performance standard monitoring? We have heard nothing about it, nor read any media reports.]
With reference to the LRT :-
- The RapidKL LRT Kelana Jaya Line has improved its capacity and services with 22 new 4–car train sets starting from December 2009 with reduction in headway (interval between consecutive train arrivals) from 2.8 minutes to 2.5 minutes. [TRANSIT: We have said on a number of occasions that the purchase of the 35 units (see our comment with the next bullet point) of 4-carriage Kelana Jaya LRT trains should not be considered as part of the NKRA/NKEA since the purchase was made under the previous government administration.]
- Further initiatives include adding 35 sets of 4-car trains by 2012 and adding line extensions from Sri Petaling to Putra Heights and Kelana Jaya to Putra Heights to be operational by 2014 [TRANSIT: Notice how the information in the two bullet points is separated? Actually, the 22 trains described in the bullet point at the top of the LRT section are part of the 35 trains described in the second bullet point. The problem there is that it creates the impression that there are 22 + 35 trains being purchased, rather than the real number of 35.]
- There is going to be interconnectivity between the MRT, LRT and KTM Komuter. There are 2 MRT-LRT interchanges one at Pasar Seni (Kelana Jaya line) and Taman Maluri (Ampang line) and 2 MRT-KTM Komuter interchanges at Sungai Buloh and Kajang. The MRT will also have a station near KL Sentral where the station will be linked to the transportation hub via an underground walkway with travellators, lifts and escalators. The distance between the MRT station and the KL Sentral complex is about 200m. [TRANSIT: Indeed, this integration is a good thing – but there are improvements that need to be made to the planning of the MRT route to maximize integration with LRT, MRT, Monorail and KTM.]
With reference to KTM Komuter :-
- Adding 38 sets of 6-car trains to be delivered starting end 2011, doubling current capacity, with reduction in headway form 20 minutes to 7.5 minutes on major sections. [TRANSIT: We have stated on many occasions that 38 trains is not enough to make the improvements to KTM Komuter services that are required.]
As for the MRT,
the Klang Valley currently has a shortage of rail-based public transport coverage, with less than 20km of rail per million population. Public transport oriented cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and London have more than 40km of rail per million population. [TRANSIT: And yet, these places have built up a reliable, effective network of small-scale, road-based public transportation before they started investing in their rail infrastructure. In Malaysia we seem to think that we can build the rail infrastructure without building the road-based public transportation first.
London, Singapore and Hong Kong (and Paris, and Madrid, and Shanghai, and New York, and Moscow, and all of the other cities with successful MRT networks) have a massive public transport modal share that is well in excess of 50%, as well as medium-high density urban development which makes rail-based infrastructure not only necessary but also financially sustainable. ]
The MRT is a necessity as it will help to increase rail-based public transportation in the Klang Valley, and together with improvements to the existing urban transportation system, the Government hopes to increase the public transport modal share in the Klang Valley from the current 17% to 50% in 2020. [TRANSIT: Even if the Klang Valley reaches 50% public transport modal share (not including taxis), our sprawled out, low-density model does not encourage the use of rail-based public transport and makes it less likely to be sustainable.]
Ahmad Suhaili Idrus,
NKRA Urban Public Transport
NKEA Greater Kuala Lumpur / Klang Valley
As you can imagine, TRANSIT appreciates the response from Ahmad Suhaili and the attempt to clarify the points of concern that have been raised about the Klang Valley / Kuala Lumpur NKEA and Urban Public Transport NKRA.
TRANSIT wants to encourage more public dialogue about the plans to improve public transport, and more public consultation on the implementation. As you can see, we have made an effort to refute some of the points made by Ahmad Suhaili.
Now, there are other issues that Ahmad Suhaili’s response does not address. And we at TRANSIT hope that the people at Pemandu and SPAD, and the other relevant authorities within the Malaysian Government, will provide additional clarification.
There is a perception that the MRT project is being “railroaded” through (pun intended), with a goal of starting the project as quickly as possible, no matter the consequences. These perceptions are fueled by:
- The optics of the apparently “immediate” acceptance of an unsolicited MRT proposal from MMC-Gamuda (admittedly, with some modifications) without public discussion of plans for a rail-based public transport network;
- The apparent selection of MMC-Gamuda as Project Delivery Partner (PDP) without any open tender;
- The agreement to allow the Project Delivery Partner to bid on tunneling projects – traditionally, the PDP is not permitted to participate in actual contracts or packages and must focus on the whole project;
- A lack of data on the part of Pemandu, MMC-Gamuda, and SPAD with respect to the public transport demand in the Sg. Buloh – Kajang corridor – information which would justify the need for mass-transit;
- Confusing data on the carrying capacity of the proposed MRT, which will have a line carrying capacity rate that is not much larger than the existing LRT system, despite the longer and wider trains and additional capital costs of MRT over LRT;
- A flawed Environmental Impact Assessment that dismissed other options for improving public transport or building rapid-transit networks without thorough examination and makes inaccurate claims about the suitability of these modes without proper supporting data;
- No response from Pemandu, SPAD or the Malaysian Government to concerns about the Environmental Impact Assessment report;
- The perception that the project is being rushed, something not helped by Cabinet approval of the MRT project despite the flawed Environmental Impact Assessment Report, lack of data justifying public transport demand, unclear project costs, incomplete negotiation for the PDP’s fee, and other issues related to fiscal and management responsibility – such as the selection of the project consultant, the unconventionally large fee for the Independent Checking Engineer (and the selection of the ICE);
- Confusion over the respective roles & responsibilities of Prasarana, Pemandu, SPAD, and the new MRT Co. with respect to planning & building the Klang Valley MRT;
- Projected costs for the MRT that are much higher than comparative projects – including projects that are much larger in scale and scope than the MRT such as the Delhi Metro, Singapore Downtown line and London Crossrail;
- A dearth of information about plans for feeder bus services, reorganizing the bus network to support the rail-network, resolving issues with fare-collection and ticketing (to reduce the annoying, unnecessary and costly separation of public transport services by mode and ownership (including former ownership as can be seen from the new “integrated” LRT fares which are exactly the same as the old “integrated” LRT fares, which are exactly the same as the old “non-integrated” LRT fares!);
- Government-owned companies competing with private companies in the bus industry, with negative results such as the overlapping of services and reduction of services in less-profitable routes – and the collapse of rural & regional bus services in many corridors leaving people without access to public transport;
- No changes to local public transport governance & policy – which would reduce the challenges faced by private operators, remove bureaucracy and dependence on the government, and facilitate growth in the public transport industry;
- No development of local public transport organizing authorities, which would ensure that public transport services (which are fundamentally local & regional public goods – which can be provided by the government or contracted private companies) is an effective part of the local & regional economy, rather than the product of a centralized, bureaucratic system;
- And of course, the concerns expressed by many people over the process of land acquisition for the MRT and the acquisition of buildings along Jalan Sultan and at Jalan Bukit Bintang;
- Finally, the amount of media attention (and indeed, attention from SPAD, Pemandu, the Malaysian Government and the public) to the MRT project, and the lack of attention (and information) regarding plans to improve other aspects of the public transport sector.
So yeah, TRANSIT has concerns. We have problems with what the government is not doing, as well as problems with the government saying that they are doing things but not consulting the public, and most importantly, claiming that they are “transforming” public transport when they are just providing improvements to the same old systems.
Sorry, but this is not good enough. TRANSIT and the public expect better from Pemandu and SPAD and the Malaysian government.